Rabbi Elazar ben Shimeon and the Thieves—A Story of Sin and Atonement

by Ronit Shoshany

The story of R. Elazar and the thieves consists of two parts. The first part describes R. Elazar’s service under Roman rule as a thief-catcher (Bavli, Bava Metzi‘a 83b). The story is interrupted by a sequence of short stories, concluding with the story of R. Yohanan and Resh Lakish (84a). This interruption is apparently an intentional editorial one, aimed at encouraging the reader to compare the stories of R. Elazar and R. Yohanan. There are several similar motifs, but there is an important difference between the two stories: R. Yohanan mourns for the dead Resh Lakish, but does not repent for having caused his death by his cruel behavior, whereas R. Elazar deeply repents of his misconduct. This repentance and self-punishment is described in the second part of the story (84b). In this article, I present a close reading of the two parts of the story of R. Elazar, and a detailed comparison between this story and that of R. Yohanan. I argue that the main theme of R. Elazar’s story is his sincere repentance and atonement, which eventually enables acknowledgment of his righteousness by readers of the story.

Timi De-Romi and Tyche De-Romi:
A Reexamination of the Historical Significance of a Talmudic Expression

by Emmanuel Friedheim

The Talmud Yerushalmi (‘Avodah Zarah 3.3) uses the obscure expression timi de-Romi, a term which puzzled scholars until the publication of a Geniza fragment which reads tyche de-Romi instead, i.e., the Greek goddess of Fortune. Indeed, J. N. Epstein and S. Lieberman considered this reading authentic. However, examination of archaeological and historical sources suggests that the lectio difficilior timi de-Romi might also be viable, as demonstrated at length in this article, for in the Nabatean area and among Arabs from the Palmyrene region pagans referred to the goddess Tyche as time.

For Whom Was the Farhi Haggadah Intended?
On the Image of Egyptian Jews During the First Half of the Twentieth Century

by Nahem Ilan

The “Farhi Haggadah” is a Passover Haggadah that was printed in Egypt five times between the years 1917 and 1948. Its uniqueness is threefold: It was printed in both Hebrew and literary Arabic translation, Dr. Hillel Farhi, the translator, added many comments (in Arabic) to those already printed in former Haggadahs; twenty-seven special footnotes by Dr. Farhi supplied historical evidence of the biblical slavery story, and granted the Haggadah a special atmosphere.
Farhi’s additions place a text within a text: within the framework of the canonic Haggadah, there is a text for the public for whom the Haggadah was no longer canonic. The insertion method is significant too — these are texts of unequal significance. To Farhi, the framework is that of a regular Haggadah translated into Arabic, like many before. Only a thorough review reveals Farhi’s hidden text, well assimilated into the Haggadah’s regular, continuous text.
Reading the Farhi Haggadah is culturally fascinating, since it reflects on both a society experiencing a deep, cultural transformation, and on a Jewish scholar, highly committed to his changing community, who is offering a text that helps connect his society with its old tradition, now less strong and obliging.

“The Song of Heavens and Seas in his Heart”
Yosef Zvi Rimon During the Period of the Second Aliya (1904–1914)

by Dror Eydar

This study examines the beginning of modern religious Hebrew poetry in the Land of Israel in the twentieth century as reflected in the work of Yosef Zvi Rimon (1889–1958), in light of the historical, political and cultural changes that took place in the Old and New Yishuv in the first decades of the century.

The study deals with the first steps of the poet in the Land of Israel. Rimon walked the thin line which divided the population at that period. His acquaintance with Brenner and the literary society that surrounded him in Jaffa only emphasized his difference and foreignness. Rimon, considered a guest-writer in the publications of the literary society, was left out as the constant ‘other’. On the other hand, Rimon’s attempt to fit in with the life of the Old Yishuv failed. Part of his work, particularly the prose, dealt with the distance he placed between himself and the Old Yishuv; he divorced himself, not from the faith held by the Ultra-Orthodox, but from their way of life. Here, too, the poet remained an outsider.

During the period in which his character as a writer was formed, Rimon lacked a supportive community (like the religious-Zionist community, which had not yet been established). The low stature of young religious people was conspicuous when compared with the assured idealism of the pioneers of the Second Aliyah. Memoirs of religious pioneers reveal that this was part of the ethos on which the religious Zionist experience developed. Rimon’s poems from this period were nurtured by this idea, and reflect his feelings regarding his exclusion from the hegemonic center.

The Tosefta as a Commentary on an Early Mishnah

by Judith Hauptman

Recent scholarship has demonstrated that much of the Tosefta precedes the Mishnah and serves as its basis. However, this raises a fundamental question: how could the Tosefta have been a source of the Mishnah, if the Tosefta is essentially a wide-ranging commentary on and supplement to the Mishnah, as evidenced by the fact that numerous passages in the Tosefta make no sense on their own, and can only be understood when read together with the text on which they comment?

The author suggests that while the Tosefta often comments on a Mishnah, this was not *our* Mishnah, but rather some other, organized, older collection of tannaitic teachings. Numerous examples are adduced to prove this point, thereby providing evidence for the existence of a version of the Mishnah which preceded our Mishnah, which was used and modified by the redactor of our Mishnah.

Yohanan ben Zakkai, Amicus Caesaris: A Jewish Hero in Rabbinic Eyes

by Amram Tropper 

In the foundation myth of Yavneh, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai flees besieged Jerusalem, surrenders to the Romans, predicts Vespasian’s promotion to emperor and is subsequently granted Yavneh as a new center for the rabbinic movement. This rabbinic story risks portraying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai as a deserter, perhaps even as a traitor and it is puzzling that the rabbis would have depicted one of the most important sages of the formative period in rabbinic Judaism in such a potentially damaging fashion. Indeed, the nationalistic atmosphere that reigned in Judea during the late first and early second centuries would probably have discouraged contemporary rabbis from portraying a rabbinic hero in this manner, and accordingly, there is not even a hint of the escape story in tannaitic literature. I suggest, however, that later rabbis were comfortable depicting Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai in this potentially unflattering manner because of the precedent set by Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s experiences during the destruction of the First Temple, as narrated in the Bible, resemble those of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai at the end of the Second Temple period, and it seems that the rabbis typologically depicted Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai as the Jeremiah of the Second Temple.

Wherein lies the pesher?
Re-questioning the connection between medieval Karaite and Qumranic modes of biblical interpretation

by Meira Polliack

The article questions the long-held thesis concerning the existence of a viable connection between the Qumranic pesher and the early Karaite model and method of interpreting biblical prophecy (and some other biblical texts), as argued primarily by N. Wieder, and later adopted in other studies.

Although much clarification will be required in future research, the theoretical direction upon which this article draws, is that Karaism is first and foremost an expression of a crisis internal to Rabbinic Judaism. It primarily reflects a dialectic with the intellectual traditions of Rabbinic Judaism, as well as deep unease, to the point of implosion and friction with its social-political outlook. The more Karaism and its driving ethos are examined in the context of Rabbinic Judaism rather than in that of “sectarian” Judaism, the supposed impact of the Second Temple sects on Karaism becomes less probable. As research progresses, a re-evaluation will inevitably be sought of the relative place and degree of  importance attributed to each of these basic contexts in the formation of early Karaite literature.

The hypothesis proposed  is that the parallels which have been identified between the exegetical texts of both groups are analogous in nature, reflecting a similar orientation in the history of Jewish Bible interpretation, yet cannot be confused with actual influence of Qumranic sources upon early Karaite literature. The analysis offered concerns three major aspects of the comparative sources: the conceptual framework of interpretation (I), its methodology (II) and terminology (III). It will be shown that in all these aspects there is no substantive continuity between the interpretive systems idiosyncratic to the Qumranites and the Karaites. Hence, the process, style and content of biblical interpretation cannot be used in support of wider claims presupposing some form of historical linkage between these two dissenting movements of antiquity and medieval times.

As introductory background, two additional dimensions of the claim to connection are generally outlined, which do not concern its exegetical manifestation, but focus on halakhic and historical forms of evidence which have been harnessed to this claim. A short general introduction is also appended which highlights recent breakthroughs in Karaite Studies (of relevance to the comparative discussion). Also appended are short sections on hermeneutic theory and conclusions, which draw attention to the wider implications of this debate for the study of the history of Jewish Bible exegesis.

JSIJ@mail.biu.ac.il  52900 הפקולטה למדעי היהדות, אוניברסיטת בר-אילן, רמת גן JSIJ

Last Update:February 15, 2005